An old memory.
When I was a kid -old enough to form memories still young enough for people around me not to notice was forming memories- we were up-country for a holiday with the family. While out in the field my older siblings and mother were helping with the harvest (a lesson in hard work courtesy of mummy) however, I and my asthma were there to provide moral support. I do not remember the specifics of what I said but I remember very clearly the response ‘Segelde wewe’. It was not a complement. It did not apply to boys. It was said with a twisted lip and critical tongue, kinda like when someone says “you’re a feminist aren’t ya?”. I asked what it meant and my mum exchanged a look with my sister that said they knew what it meant but didn’t know how to explain to a non-Kalenjin speaker. The closest they came was in Swahili ‘mujuwaji’ which loosely translates to ‘know it all’ but not ‘knowledgeable’. This is the earliest memory I have of being uncomfortable with being myself.
My mother and sister did not say this in malice; I believe it was more like a suggestion of how not to be. The older women in my life were trying to instill in me tools to survive the world as a woman. Which I did not understand at the time I just felt hurt and uncomfortable, but I did not express those feelings instead I brushed those eeky feelings aside and began to shrink … well, try to. I failed in my efforts I failed astronomically and heard the word ‘Segelde’ over and over again. I do not hear it anymore (perhaps because there is no point to stating the obvious anymore) but I do find myself questioning if I must express myself more often than I care to admit for fear of being seen as a segelde. A fear I hate and I am struggling to unlearn.
Today I understand this word is one of the many tools handed to women to learn how to police themselves according to a patriarchal dogma. From a very young age, it was communicated to me, that as a girl having too much to say is not correct. And by having too much to say I was not girl enough. And that one statement kicked off a lifetime of being uncomfortable in my own skin until one day I decided I was a girl and the definition will have to expand to fit me and not I have to shrink to fit the definition.
I do not want the word to go away. I want it to be said with a positive tone, I want individuality to be celebrated in little boys and girls. Because the outdated social curriculum we are forced to follow injures us all. Enforcing gender roles that have no actual logic behind them makes creating happy healthy adults who will be happy in interpersonal relationships and overall navigate life in a proactive manner impossible. And it must change.
Thanks for reading.